By Rachel Sheffield
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the winners of $110 million worth of grant money for sex education programs for adolescents. The money will go to fund five-year cooperative agreements as part of the Obama Administration’s new Teen Pregnancy Prevention program.
However, while HHS stated that they “were hoping for and hopefully got a healthy mix” of programs, according to The Washington Post, “Abstinence proponents … identified just five ‘authentic’ abstinence programs receiving less than $5 million.” In total, 115 programs in 38 states received grants.
Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association stated, “Today’s funding announcement demonstrates a disturbing imbalance in a process touted to be open to abstinence education programs.”
Unfortunately, an imbalance in funding is nothing new. Over the years, spending on teen pregnancy prevention programs has drastically outweighed funding for abstinence education. Even during the Bush Administration, when 169 abstinence programs received grant money, spending on programs to promote “safe sex” still outpaced funding for abstinence education by a ratio of four to one. And now these abstinence programs will be losing their funding.
This is a real tragedy for teens—and for the nation—for many reasons.
First, abstinent youth perform better in school, are more emotionally healthy, and are less likely to contract an STD. Furthermore, abstinent youth are more likely to avoid having a child outside of marriage and, by doing so, will be significantly less likely to live in poverty and be on welfare. Eighty percent of all long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes. A decline in the number of single-parent families is not only good for youth, but it also benefits taxpayers who must shoulder the burdens of ever-growing welfare roles.
Second, research indicates that abstinence education programs successfully help students delay sexual activity. A review of 22 studies revealed that the large majority (17) of these programs provided positive outcomes for youth, including helping them delay sexual activity. Most recently, a study released in February of this year showed that students who participated in abstinence education were more likely to postpone sexual activity when compared to their peers who received comprehensive sex education.
Finally, parents want their children to receive abstinence education. According to a 2007 Zogby survey, parents—by a two-to-one margin—prefer abstinence education over comprehensive sex education. Nearly 60 percent said more funding should go toward abstinence education, and close to 80 percent said that sex education classes in public schools should focus more on promoting abstinence than teaching about contraceptives.
Abstinence is clearly the best choice for youth. Parents know it, too. It increases the likelihood that teens will have a promising future and decreases their likelihood of welfare dependence. Policy that encourages youth to make the healthiest choices—and at the same time support a stable society—is a win–win for teens and taxpayers alike.